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Culture Index: ‘Spiderman,’ ‘The Ronna & Beverly Podcast’ and More

Seven things Rolling Stone editors think you should check out this week

Culture Index: 'Spiderman,' 'The Ronna & Beverly Podcast' and More

Ah yes, the summer slog begins. Even with summer Fridays, beach-y Sundays, road trips and more fun on your agenda, you’ll need to pace yourself for the many weeks of blazing sun and mugginess ahead. On that score, Rolling Stone editors proffer entertaining, stimulating suggestions for your eyes and ears: including a book that’s been compared to both Charles Dickens and Scarface, the new (and very good, we swear) Spider-Man movie, Casey Affleck as a ghost and more. 

‘The Ronna & Beverly Podcast’

Don’t be fooled by the hyper-specificity of Ronna Glickman and Beverly Ginsberg’s world. Yes, as portrayed by comedy veterans Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, they’re upper-middle-class, middle-aged Jewish mothers from outside Boston who love bragging about their weird kids, noshing on fan-sent chocolates, spinning wild (mis)interpretations of pop cultural moments, bickering incessantly and embarrassing their show’s guests with intrusive, sexually explicit questions. (Guests are typically comedy world royalty, from Ellie Kempner to Rachel Dratch to Rachel Bloom, and how they handle interrogations are part of the show’s brilliance. Take, for example, Jerry O’Connell’s flummoxed response to incessant, rude queries about his wife Rebecca Romijn’s first husband, John Stamos.) But Chaffin and Denbo’s commitment to character – and accompanying, multi-decades-long backstories – is so utterly steadfast that the enterprise feels like the world’s longest, funniest performance art piece, one they’ve been pulling off since the show’s 2011 launch. Dipping into any episode is akin to a long encounter with a nosy, bewitching female relative on the buffet line at a bar mitzvah. You can’t escape, and you won’t want to.

‘Black Moses’ by Alain Mabanckou

Alain Mabanckou’s novel, which has been described as “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa,” and has also drawn comparisons to Brian De Palma’s Scarface, gives us one of the great literary characters of the year: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko, but you can call him Moses for short. It’s a story about a young kid coming up in the cruel world, the people who exploit him, and the things people are willing to do to thrive in a crushingly hostile world. Translated from French, this one might fly under some radars, but it shouldn’t. It’s one of the most compelling books you’ll read in any language this year. 

Savage Republic performing at Desolation Center's "Mojave Exodus" show. Dry Lake Bed near Lucerne Valley, California. April 24,1983.

Courtesy Cornelius Projects.

‘From the Desert to the Sea: The Desolation Center Experience’

Music festivals take place all the time these days, and get millions of dollars thrown at them from concert sponsors. From Lollapalooza to, Warped Tour, Coachella and, um, Fyre. Actually, maybe skip Fyre, but you know what we’re talking about. 

Desolation Center, which LA Weekly described as being like “some bizarre ritual at the end of the world,” came before all of that. In 1983, bands like Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, Einstürzende Neubauten, Savage Republic and Swans, along with some true believers, made their way into the Mojave Desert for a series of important but overlooked shows – nothing like it has been attempted since. 

Co-curated by Desolation Center founder Stuart Swezey, with Laurie Steelink, Craig Ibarra and Mariska Leyssius, the exhibit shines light on this important moment in time, and can be viewed at Cornelius Projects in San Pedro, California until August 27th. 

G L Askew II/HBO

‘The Defiant Ones’

It’s the kind of question that smacks of hall of fame introductions and slow-motion montages, but what does it really take to become a legend? What do you have to go through to become the name in whatever you do? HBO explores that with this docuseries, a series of episodes that not only looks at one, but two legends, Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. Just hearing the names of those two legendary producers should conjure up an entire soundtrack of some of the greatest songs of the 20th century. The Defiant Ones shows how they did it

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

Your favorite friendly web slinger is back…again. Only this time, Peter Parker fighting bad guys is “amazing” according to Peter Travers, who gave Spider-Man: Homecoming three solid stars, saying the latest attempt at the famous comic book franchise “brings teen heart and soul” to the hero you thought you’d seen more than enough of. “The movie is as high school as a John Hughes comedy – think The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – in which teens talk like teens instead of old-school Hollywood cynics aching to sound young,” Travers writes. 

Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

‘Fear the Walking Dead’

Even zombies need a break, so here we are at midseason finale time, just as Fear the Walking Dead is really starting to heat up. But with the popular spinoff show recently getting signed up for another season, and an alleged shocking twist to finish off this first-half of the season, now is a good time to binge on anything you may have missed until the dead are ready to walk again in a few weeks. 

‘A Ghost Story’

Remember what you used to think ghosts looked like when you were a little kid? Think Charlie Brown’s Halloween party or Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin’s initial thoughts on how to haunt a house in Beetlejuice. The undead covered in bed sheets has always had a hint of the comical to it, but, somehow, Oscar winner Casey Affleck, playing a recently dead man, takes a piece of fabric and makes it haunting, terrifying – creating one of the most emotionally gripping horror films in ages.